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Lesson Transcript

Intro

Hi, everybody! Stefania here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Greek questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is “When do you keep the final ν (N) of a word?”
Explanation
Many students get confused when they see some Greek words that end in ν (n) sometimes omitting that final ν (n). For example, δεν and δε (den/de, "not"), μην and μη (min/mi, "don't") την and τη (tin/ti, "the [feminine]"), and so on, so they ask me why this happens. I will explain the rule behind this in hopes that it will help all of you puzzled learners of Greek.
Let's go into more detail. First, let's see what does that final ν (n) rule say and which words get affected by it.
The rule says that the feminine words τη(ν) (tin, "the/her"), στη(ν) (stin, "to the"), αυτή(ν) (aftín, "her"), and the particles δε(ν) (den, "not"), and μη(ν) (min, "don't") keep that final ν (n) when the next word begins either with a vowel or the consonants κ (k), π (p), τ (t), ξ (x), ψ (ps), or the double consonant combinations μπ (b), ντ (d), γκ (g), τσ (ts) and τζ (j). In any other case, they lose it. Μη(ν) also loses its final ν (n) before a punctuation mark or a scholarly participle in some standard expressions. For example, Μη! (Mi! "Don't!") and χώρος μη καπνιζόντων (hóros mi kapznizóndon, "non-smoking area"). The masculine words τον (ton, "the/him"), στον (ston, "to/in/on/at the"), έναν (énan, "one"), αυτόν (aftón, "him"), and the adverb σαν (san, "as/like") always keep that final ν (n). This rule applies to written speech only. In oral speech, many Greeks assimilate the final ν (n) with the next word's initial letter so ν (n) is often not heard. Check out our assimilation videos in the Ultimate Greek Pronunciation Guide series on GreekPod101.com
Here are some sample sentences.
Αυτόν δεν τον ξέρω. (Aftón den ton xéro.)
"I don't know him."
Χρησιμοποιώ τη σκούπα. (Hrisimopió ti skúpa.)
"I use the broom."
Following up, let's see why we keep the final ν (n) in some words.
The reason is simple; If we were to remove the final ν (n) from the masculine words τον (ton, "the"), στον (ston, "to/in/on/at the"), αυτόν (aftón, "him"), and έναν (énan, "one"), they could be confused for neuter words, especially when they define a noun whose gender we are not sure of. So when we would see somewhere written "...το νέο..." (...to néo...) without knowing the context, we wouldn't be sure if it's a neuter adjective meaning "the new" or a masculine noun in the accusative case meaning το(ν) νέο (ton néo, "the young man").
Here are some more sample sentences.
Ξέρεις τον νέο υπάλληλο; (Xéris ton néo ipálilo?)
"Do you know the new employee?"
Διαλέγω αυτόν και εκείνον. (Dialégo aftón ke ekínon.)
"I choose him and him (the other one)."
Finally, there is one case where the current rule creates some uncertainty.
By allowing us to write δε (de, "not"), there might be cases where this negative particle might be mistaken for the conjunction δε (de, roughly meaning "however"). For example, Ο δάσκαλος μιλούσε· οι μαθητές δε γελούσαν (O dáskalos milúse; i mathités de yelúsan. "The teacher was talking; The students, however, were laughing"). If the conjunction δε (de) would be mistaken for the verb's negation when reading, then the meaning would be different. "The teacher was talking; the students weren't laughing." The problem is in written speech only, because in oral speech, the intonation helps make the distinction. This issue has created a lot of controversy among teachers, editors, and linguists leaving students and other people confused. So some Greeks write δεν (den, "not") always while others follow the existing rule. I personally choose to always write δεν (den) to avoid any confusion.
Here are some sample sentences.
Πρώτα γίνεται η συνέντευξη, κατόπιν δε γίνεται εξέταση. (Próta yínete i sinéndefxi, katópin de yínete exétasi.)
"First, there's the interview, later on, however, there's an examination."
Δεν ξέρω τι να κάνω. (Den xéro ti na káno.)
"I don't know what to do."
Tip - If you have trouble remembering the rule's consonant letters, here's a cheat phrase that will help you remember them. ΤΣάι στην ΚαΤάΨυΞη κι ένα ΜΠουλΝΤόΓΚ στο ΤΖιΠ (TSái stin KaTáPSiXi ki éna BulDóG sto JiP.) Meaning "Tea in the freezer and a bulldog in the jeep." I know it sounds ridiculous, but I hope this cheat phrase will help!

Outro

How was the lesson? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? If you can come up with any other cheat ideas, let me know in the comments!
Γεια χαρά! (Ya hará!)

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